Carter County Commission

Chairman Randal Jenkins crunches numbers during Tuesday's meeting on Carter County redistricting

ELIZABETHTON — Some things appear certain about the next redistricting of Carter County: The boundaries of many districts will change ... and there could well be fewer county commissioners.

The Rules and By-Laws Committee of the Carter County Commission held its second meeting on redistricting on Tuesday evening and went over changing the boundaries of the districts in order to reduce the deviation between the most populated districts and the least populated districts. The committee also discussed reductions in the number of commissioners, which currently stands at 24.

Committee Chairman Randal Jenkins said another element which had been considered is no longer on the table. Jenkins said staggered terms for county commissioners is not allowed under state law. He said a change would require a few years to accomplish.

The committee spent considerable time going through the possible changes to boundaries to bring up populations in the less-populated districts like Roan Mountain (District 2) and in more-populated districts like Happy Valley (District 7) and Stoney Creek (District 1).

There were some problems that affected the adjustments. These included large census blocks that the committee was not permitted to adjust. That meant the population blocks sometimes were too big to move between the districts. Another problem was that the committee tried not to include residents in a new district where the voting place would be a a lot farther from their current voting place.

The committee seemed satisfied with many of the adjustments they were able to decide on, including changes in the Happy Valley District and in Stoney Creek, where the committee members suggested that areas around the Elizabethton Airport be moved into the National Guard Armory Precinct of the 4th District. That is currently the smallest voting precinct in the county, with a population of only 243.

The committee was satisfied with the adjustments. The difference in populations between the largest and smallest districts was reduced to one standard deviation, Jenkins said.

The committee seemed to be settled on reducing the number of commissioners to either 16 or 13 members. State law requires each county to have a commission made up of between no fewer than nine members and no more than 25 members.

Jenkins summarized the discussion by saying the committee felt that the 16-member commission could be reached by keeping the number of districts at eight and electing two commissioners per district. Another option would be to divide the county into 16 new districts and elect one commissioner per district.

Jenkins said the other option discussed was to have 13 districts and elect one commissioner from each district.

One area of concern for the committee was the increased workload caused by the reduction in the number of commissioners. Where the commissioners currently devote one night per month attending their assigned standing committee meetings, they may have to double that to two nights a month. Committee members said the compensation for committee members should be increased to cover their additional time.

Some standing committees could be held less often, but the big question was the Budget Committee, which often meets more than once a week during the spring, when the annual budget is being developed.

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John Thompson covers Carter and Johnson counties for the Johnson City Press since 1998. He grew up in Washington County and graduated from University High and East Tennessee State University

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